As a woman, a mother and a journalist I wear many “badges”.
But perhaps my most treasured “badge of honour” is the one with the list of enemies that I have made along the way. Not only have they taught me much about life but they are there because I have always said it as it is and have fought at every opportunity against the hypocrisy and lies that pervade our communities.
So when a number of women who are members of a social media group called Inspiring Indian Women (IIW), approached me with their concerns about an awards ceremony called ‘She Inspires’ being organized by IIW, I began digging around.
A bit of a disclaimer at this point: I have previously uncovered and highlighted the shenanigans of the individuals behind IIW so there is some history.
IIW founders Rashmi Mishra (Left) and Richa Kalra.
The women who approached me at first asked about the “credibility” of the event because they’d had a funny experience.
Take the example of one woman – we will call her “RC” to protect her anonymity.
RC had been a participant of a beauty contest co-organized by a Rashmi Mishra, who is the co-founder of IIW (alongside one Richa Kalra, I believe).
In January, RC received a Facebook friend request from Ms Mishra and found soon after that she had been made a member of IIW and – miracle of miracles! – had been nominated for an award, amongst which are categories such as ‘Ms Futuristic’, ‘Power Woman’, ‘Special Mom’ and ‘Spirited Fighter’.
RC is among several who found the whole nominations process questionable, to say the least.
But then, questionable award ceremonies are not a new thing. Asian award ceremonies in the UK are, quite literally, a dime-a-dozen these days, celebrating everything from ice cream parlours to “inspirational” individuals of all hues.
While there are a number of long-standing such events that celebrate our achievements as a community, far too many are motivated by one of two factors – the urge to make a quick and easy buck by appealing to that very human desire for “validation” or as a rather bizarre quest for legitimacy.
Or a combination of the two.
The approach by these women then led me to investigate further and what I’ve found is not just a shameful pursuit of validation by the organizers but also a sad testament of the extents some of us will go to, in order to achieve a semblance of “respectability”.
The event is billed as one that essentially ‘celebrates the extraordinary achievements of ordinary individuals’ and yet have made a string of outrageous claims to somehow “sell” it as something utterly self-important.
It is to be held at the ‘Palace of Westminster’ – that’s the Parliament to you and me – while a flyer promoting the awards claims that it is “presented” by the Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and “supported” by Inspiring Indian Women.
The Indo-British APPG is a quasi-governmental committee that aims to promote dialogue between Westminster and the British Asian community. It is chaired by Mr Virendra Sharma, the MP for Ealing Southall who has worked tirelessly on behalf of his community for decades.
A rather confusing message. (Taken from IIW’s Facebook page)
What the flyer does not mention, however, is the fact that it is against Parliamentary Standards for an APPG to “present” events where individual awards are handed out.
It goes against the small matter that these APPG’s and Parliament as a whole are meant to represent and celebrate the community as a whole.
What’s more, Mr Sharma tells me that he merely booked a committee room for the event – as he has done for countless other organizations – and that it was being billed as being “presented” by APPG.
The second red light was raised for me when I made contact with the office of the distinguished economist and British-Indian Labour peer Lord Meghnad Desai.
Lord Desai’s magnificent face is displayed prominently in flyers for the event while plentiful thanks are given to him across Social Media for supporting and agreeing to attend the event as “Chief Guest”.
Alas, it appears that Lord Desai has not only never heard of the Inspiring Indian Women awards but has at no point agreed to attend the event, as his office personally confirmed to me.
It turns out that this is the case with a number of other Guests of Honour and Special Guests.
Their delighted faces stare out of the flyer but they are completely unaware of the fact that they are attending.
Others were shocked when I shared the news with them that Lord Desai hasn’t even heard of the event as some had agreed to attend the awards based on the fact that Lord Desai would attend.
Some of the Special Guests are not aware that they are attending.
Another ‘Special Guest’ – a distinguished and renowned figure in the arts world – was flabbergasted that her image had been used and she was touted variously as a “jury member” and a “panellist”, telling me that she never confirmed her attendance as she would be away on the day of the event.
According to IIW’s Facebook page, dozens of members have bought tickets at £10.00 – I mean, who wouldn’t if you have the chance of receiving an award in Parliament for a tenner.
And yet, committee rooms are completely free to book.
One could argue that all of this boils down to semantics. One could argue that I take issue with words. But words are important. Lies and fallacies are made up of words. Misleading statements are made up of words.
Unwitting and innocent women and members of the public are being misled with words.
And often it all begins with mere words and evolve into things that are more sinister and dangerous.
Untruths and wild exaggerations are used to obtain “legitimacy” and “authenticity” at the expense of those who strive day in and day out and deserve validation for the yeomen work they do.
And these kinds of fallacies taint us all as a community. It disappoints those attending and disillusions them and paints everyone with the same brush of tar.